Skip to main content

Soto, Hernando de (c. 1497–1542)

Soto, Hernando de (c. 1497–1542)

Hernando de Soto (b. c. 1496/1497; d. 21 May 1542), Spanish explorer and conquistador. Born in Villanveva de Barcarrota, Soto came to America in 1514 as a member of the Pedro Arias de Ávila expedition to Darién. By 1520, Soto had acquired substantial wealth from the slave trade in Central America. In 1532, he joined Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru, and after accumulating significant wealth from the spoliation of Peru, returned to Spain in 1536. Soto had been present at the capture of Atahualpa at Cajamarca and afterward had taken Cuzco. Although Soto was at this time one of the richest conquistadores, on his return he sought the governorship of Florida. His expedition landed in Florida near modern Tampa in May 1539. Soto's search for a kingdom as wealthy as Tenochtitlán and Cuzco led his group from Tampa Bay to the modern states of Tennessee and Arkansas. The armada then moved to northwest Texas, and after traveling east to modern Georgia, marched west again to the Mississippi River, reaching Pánuco after crossing the Gulf of Mexico in makeshift boats. Soto died in Guachoya in present-day Louisiana. His corpse was thrown into the Mississippi River to keep the Indians from learning that he had died. Only his cruelty toward Indians compares with his foolhardy pursuit of the mirage of a flourishing city in the hinterland.

See alsoExplorers and Exploration: Spanish America; Pizarro, Francisco.


The major Soto narratives are available in English: Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the Conquest of Florida, edited by Edward Gaylord Bourne, 2 vols. (1922); Garcilaso De La Vega's masterpiece, La Florida del Inca (1605) also in English as The Florida of the Inca, translated and edited by John Grier Varner and Jeannette Johnson Varner (1951); and The Soto Chronicles: The Expedition of Hernando de Soto to North America in 1539–1543, edited by Lawrence A. Clayton, Vernon James Knight, Jr., and Edward C. Moore (1993). For romanticized profiles of Soto, see Robert B. Cunninghame Graham, Hernando de Soto (1912); and Miguel Albornoz, Hernando de Soto: Knight of the Americas, translated by Bruce Boeglin (1986). On Soto's violence see "Hernando de Soto: Scourge of the Southeast," special section of Archaeology 42, no. 3 (May/June 1989): 26-39.

Additional Bibliography

Duncan, David Ewing. Hernando de Soto: A Savage Quest in the Americas. New York: Crown Publishers, 1995.

Galloway, Patricia Kay. The Hernando de Soto Expedition: History, Historiography, and "Discovery" in the Southeast. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

                                           JosÉ Rabasa

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Soto, Hernando de (c. 1497–1542)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 16 Aug. 2019 <>.

"Soto, Hernando de (c. 1497–1542)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (August 16, 2019).

"Soto, Hernando de (c. 1497–1542)." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved August 16, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.